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Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Dance Rhapsody (1908) [18:22]
Dance Poem (1913) [15:38]
Two Jefferies Poems (1916): The Open Air [7:44]; The Story of My Heart [4:25]
Overture Rebus (1940) [10:38]
Allegro Moderato for string orchestra (1941) [14:47]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. 1979. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.243 [71:38]

Lyrita’s Bridge recordings of 1979, with the LPO and Nicholas Braithwaite on rhythmically vital form, return to the current of things in this first class restoration.
The Dance Rhapsody will surprise those who think they know “early” Bridge. The keyword is “sumptuous” and the big arcing sweep of the writing is saturated with deeply etched romanticism. Yes, certainly, the elements of Tchaikovskian terpsichorean writing are strong, vivid and unignorable – the Swan Lake echoes are very much to the fore – but there is so much grace and character to the music that these possible indiscretions are easily forgiven. Perhaps there’s a slightly disjointed element to the construction of some of the writing but once again when the ceremonial-brash pages are as vivid and powerful as these no one’s much counting the loose change.
The 1913 Dance Poem is a very different kind of work and the abrupt conjunction of the two works show the differing magnetic pulls of Bridge’s compositional compass.  Chromaticism and Debussy are twin influences here and the orchestral writing is very much more subtly deployed – the instrumentation is defter and more pertinent. The waltz courses through the piece and there’s some alluring string tone from the LPO who play with considerable refinement throughout. This kind of bold, romantic writing does remind one of sections of the earlier work but by now we find a greater clarity and purpose. We end with a little Till Eulenspiegel simper.
The programme is arranged chronologically. We can programme the works any way we like of course but it’s valuable to trace the lineage in this way to appreciate the developments that took place in Bridge’s compositions. The 1916 Two Poems are studies variously in languor and vitality.  Both are based on poems by Richard Jefferies. The Open Air, the first, evokes “a haze of distance” and this languid pastoral, so rich, quivering and intense, is balanced by the vibrant excitement of The Story of my Heart.
The overture Rebus followed toward the end of Bridge’s life. It’s a sumptuous score, redolent of Elgar in places, and Strauss in others. The terpsichorean rhythms also hearken back to the Dance Rhapsody, though the grittier moments indicate how much Bridge’s had developed. It’s a sophisticated, satisfying work and it carries a narrative, embodying the idea of the spreading of a rumour – though it’s probably best to listen to the work without worrying about that.
The final work is the Allegro Moderato for string orchestra. It derives from the Symphony for Strings that Bridge left uncompleted at his death. Anthony Pople has completed this single surviving movement. It’s a big fifteen-minute span and tightly constructed, highly expressive and admirably logical in design.
As with a number of these Lyritas, Chandos has since staked a strong claim in this area of the repertoire. But there’s room for both approaches, for Hickox’s more equivocal and less emotive readings, and for Braithwaite’s heavier, more overtly expressive ones.
Jonathan Woolf  
see also review by Rob Barnett

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